Question: We have just bought our first house and we know that the previous owner had bad debts. We are getting lots of mail for him. When you buy a new property do you inherit the debts of the previous owners for gas, electricity, telephone etc? Should our solicitor have sorted this out when we moved? Will our credit rating be affected?
We are fed up with all this post and are worried that bailiffs may appear next. We have been writing on envelopes "not known at this address" but the letters still keep arriving. Is there anything else we can do?
Answer: The debts of the previous owner are not your responsibility. Your credit rating will not be affected by his bad debts or by any county court judgments that may be registered against him. However, to be constantly receiving letters meant for him is annoying and, alas, many organisations take no notice of returned post and continue to send letters relentlessly.
You might end up with bailiffs at your door if his debts are big enough, so keep documentation handy that proves who you are and that you are the new owners.
When a property is sold, the seller should notify the utility companies and give them a completion date for a final meter reading. The buyer has to notify these service providers if they want to receive their services. Your solicitor does not get involved in this.
It is an offence to open someone else's post if you are doing so to their detriment. In your case, however, as returning post isn't working, you could open his mail and write or phone the companies to explain the situation.
WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email email@example.com or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (withyking.co.uk).